Brian Conacher

Brian Conacher may not be the most memorable player from the 1967 Toronto Maple Leafs Stanley Cup championship team, but he may have had the most interesting career.

Born on August 31st, 1941, Conacher had great hockey and sporting bloodlines. His father was none other than Lionel Conacher, a multi-sport athlete, a Hockey Hall of Famer and Canada's top athlete for the first half century. His uncle was Charlie Conacher, one of the first great Maple Leafs. Uncle Roy and cousins Pete Conacher and Murray Henderson also played in the National Hockey League.

By his own admission, Brian Conacher became more famous because of his surname than for his own exploits as a professional hockey player.

"I was a journeyman player who had a modest, inconspicuous career," he opined. "I was lucky to be part of some great teams, but I certainly wasn't a Bobby Orr or Bobby Hull."

The studious Conacher attended Upper Canada College before joining the Toronto Marlboros junior team. He would get one taste of NHL action during the 1961-62 season when he dressed for one game with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but rather than apprenticing in the minor leagues Conacher had other plans.

Conacher enrolled at the University of Western Ontario while simultaneously joining Father Bauer's Canadian National Team in 1963-64. He represented his country at the 1964 Olympic Winter Games in Innsbruck, Austria, although Canada would finish a disappointing fourth.

The Soviet Union took the gold medal, as Conacher and others on the Candian Nats sounded warnings to the NHL of just how good the Russians were. Conacher himself suggested that the Soviets were on a par with NHL players, but no one would heed his words.

Conacher's pro career got started in 1965-66 as a member of the AHL's Rochester Americans, the top affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The industrious Conacher scored 14 goals in Rochester, but was only rewarded with a two game trial in Toronto.

In 1966-67 Conacher made the Leafs on a full time basis. He had a respectable 14 goals and 27 points in 66 games where he was utilized mostly as a role player. But Conacher didn't mind, as he was part of the now-much-celebrated Leafs team that somewhat inexplicably captured the Stanley Cup.

Conacher returned for another season with the Leafs, but then opted to return to the Canadian National Team for the following three seasons. He made an unsuccessful 22 game NHL come back attempt with Detroit in 1971-72.

Conacher always stayed involved in hockey following his NHL and international playing career. He turned to broadcasting, where he covered several Olympics and the 1972 Summit Series. It is Conacher's voice you here doing the colour commentary. Using his knowledge of both the NHL and Soviet games, Conacher never sounded out of place along side the legendary play by play commentator Foster Hewitt.

Conacher joined the Ottawa Nationals of the WHA for one last season as a player in 1972-73, and then turned to managing the Mohawks Valley Comets of the lowly NAHL and later the WHA Indianapolis Racers and Edmonton Oilers. He would become managing director of Hamilton's Copps Coliseum from 1985 through 1989 and later directed Maple Leaf Gardens from 1992 until its closing in 1999. He then enthusiastically took on the job as president of the NHL Alumni Association. In his spare time he has taken to writing books.


Udo Rumpf 10:06 PM  

Having been in the same Grade 7 public school class as Brian and David Conacher, I purchased "As the Puck Turns" both out of curiosity as to what had become of him and because I am a fan of the Maple Leafs.

When the book arrived in the mail and I had a look at it, I thought there was probably more hockey content than what I was interested in, so the book sat around for a
long while. However, once I got into it I actually found it very interesting as I suspect would anyone that is keen on the game of hockey.

Brian certainly had a varied career and is very modest in his assessment of his achievements.

He was and still is, I'm sure, very idealistic about the game and in his Post-Game Recap he addresses the issue of aggression in today's game and this book was written prior to the series of injuries and deaths resulting from concussions.

After reading his book, I am not surprised by the very good quality of the hard cover book as published by John Wiley & Sons.

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